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In Conversation with Morro and Jasp – “Anything Goes” at the Rhubarb Festival

by Bailey Green

Clown sisters Morro and Jasp are trying out a completely new recipe for fun, exciting and unpredictable theatre with their new creation Anything Goes — part of Buddies’ Rhubarb Festival. Anything Goes is exactly what it sounds like. Audience members are in for a unique “one on one on one” experience (dubbed by director Byron Laviolette) as they will interact directly with Morro and Jasp for a little less than ten minutes. I spoke with Heather Marie Annis (Morro) and Amy Lee (Jasp) about their upcoming performance, their years of clowning together and being a part of Rhubarb.

Anything Goes is new territory for the ebullient and open-hearted Heather and Amy. “We call ourselves structure junkies,” Heather laughs. “People may think our shows are improv, and in some ways they are, but it is based on a very specific script and structure.” With Anything Goes, most of that is out the window. There are infinite possibilities for how any given interaction will go. The pair discuss the options with open excitement, describing how perhaps an audience member may bond with one clown and turn against the other, or what will happen if a small group wants to all interact. Heather and Amy are most excited to see the potential of what can happen when an audience member is free to play without being conscious of an external audience’s judgement.

When asked about the most challenging part of preparing, the answer comes quickly: they can’t actually rehearse. Morro and Jasp venture out into the world for adventures and interact with strangers, but beyond being present and open there isn’t much else to set in place. “My desire for control is being seriously challenged,” Heather says. The pair’s background is not based in improv either, they begin primarily with Morro and Jasp. “We can go outside the boundaries because we know what they are,” Amy says. “This [Anything Goes] is wide open. Our only structure is the human being and then we find a connection.”

So to prepare, Heather and Amy have continued to exercise their improv muscles, as well as coming up with ideas of props to have in the room and scenarios to offer. They’re both conscious of the constant assessment required for a performance of this focused nature. “If they want us to just take the reins and do something we have ideas for a jumping off point,” Heather says. Amy picks up Heather’s train of thought, “We’re challenging ourselves to do this because we really want to give each person what they need and want in that moment. The ball is in their court to decide what kind of experience they want.”

When I ask the pair what they’re most excited about for Rhubarb this year, their words tumble over each other as their enthusiasm bubbles:

Heather: It’s so inspiring to see artists who are coming up with things, and someone says an idea and you’re like “my brain!”

Amy: We’ve never done Rhubarb before. It’s an amazing festival! I love Buddies, the space –

Heather: A basement, events happen –

Amy: It’s a world of possibility –

Heather: A theatre carnival and you get –

Amy: a choose your own adventure

Heather: kind of everything!

Morro and Jasp were born during Heather and Amy’s time together at York University. The pair ended up working on a piece written by Heather about two sisters named Jamie and Mackenzie. They played multiple characters and Amy fell in love with the character work of physical theatre. Byron Laviolette was at York as well at the time and he saw the piece. Laviolette had studied Pochinko clown and was very interested in the style. He had written a turn called “Reflections” about two clowns named Morris and Jasper. He saw Heather and Amy and liked their connection. “We were saying yes to everything,” Amy says of their first years out of school, “we had no idea what we were getting into, nor did we think we’d be here ten years later.” The trio moved on to train with Pete Jarvis for two years. Their first few shows were mainly for children as part of FringeKids! The women laugh and cringe as they remember the early years where they were simultaneously figuring out how to write theatre and how to be clowns.

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Then they were accepted into “adult” fringe for 2009. “We wanted to write a show about our clown characters going through puberty, we needed to tell that story,” recalls Amy. “We wanted to write the show we wanted to make without worrying whether it was appropriate. And so in Winnipeg 2008, they premiered Morro and Jasp do Puberty! Amy remembers her nerves to perform the show in front of family members and Heather bursts into giggles, “she was nervous because she humped her stuffed animal in this show. But it was so scary! We were really putting ourselves out there. People responded like, yeah that happened to me! I just didn’t think I could talk about it. Like when you go to the grocery store and hide your tampons in your bag. Like why is that a bad thing?” And the rest is clown history with their other shows, to name a few: Go Bake Yourself, Gone Wild, Of Mice and Morro… In May, they’ll be premiering a new show at Factory called 9-5, and then in July they’re bringing Morro and Jasp do Puberty to the Toronto Fringe before taking it across the pond in August to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Ten years of clowning with your awesome clown sister makes for a tight bond and it’s evident in the way Heather and Amy finish each other’s thoughts. “I don’t know anything like it in my life. When we become the characters there is this amazing intimacy that happens,” Amy says of her partnership with Heather. “The boundaries are gone. We can say and do anything to each other [as Morro and Jasp.]” Heather adds, “it’s such a freedom we have with each other that we sometimes forget about that when we work with other people.” It only makes sense, as Morro and Jasp, just like Heather and Amy, have grown up together.

Morro and Jasp: Anything Goes

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Clown sisters Morro and Jasp are looking for someone to connect with. Could it be you? Come and see what happens.

When: February 11-14 at 7:30pm

Where: downstairs at Buddies

Artists: creator / performers Heather Marie Annis + Amy Lee | director / dramaturge Byron Laviolette

Tickets: included in your $20 Evening Pass

 

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“Ohio” and Tadeu end their lives in the Montague Parkette at the 36th annual Rhubarb Festival

by Bailey Green 

Director, composer and librettist Bruce Dow’s upcoming piece in Rhubarb Festival, “the one with the goddamn long name,” is a new opera (?) about young love and suicide that focuses on the romanticization of suffering and depression in LGBTQ teens. This theatre-with-music creation tells the story of Ohio, a pre-op trans woman played by Jordan Bell, and her suicidal bully Tadeu, played by Jordan Fantauzzo. The performance will be 25 minutes of what would be a 40 minute first act in a three act piece. “Truncated like mad,” Bruce chuckles.

The action takes place in contemporary Toronto. Tadeu works in the back of his uncle’s meat shop in Little Portugal. Tadeu is in love with a trans woman and cannot accept that he is homosexual. His self-hatred manifests in the violent bullying of Ohio (and presumably others.) The other characters include his girlfriend and members of his high school clique (played by Cassie Doane, Kayla Coolen and Danik McAfee.) The themes are current and relevant. “We pretend that here [Toronto] it’s very liberal and forward thinking, but there are still many old world areas in town where it’s primitive,” says Dow. “We hear of middle class kids thrown out for being LGBTQ, of them committing suicide even when they have resources to seek help. How much of this happens here in our own neighbourhood?”

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Photo Credit: Vince Ha

 

The piece originated from a performance Dow had seen as a child. The show was bunraku, a form of traditional Japanese theatre where three-quarter life size puppets play out the action. “You see the operators but you’re watching these amazing people, or puppets, act.” The plays have high emotion and drama, love and death. One particular bunraku writer completely captured Bruce’s fascination: Chikamatsu Monzaemon. Chikamatsu Monzaemon wrote a play called “The Love Suicide at Sonezaki” which tells a very romantic tale of trapped lovers who eventually commit suicide. Bruce was drawn to the story and adapted it, re-configuring the courtesan as Ohio and the young merchant clerk as Tadeu. The structure shifted and changed beyond the original, but the framework remains.

As for the question mark next to the words “new opera” in the show poster, Bruce describes it as a marriage between opera and theatre with music. “It’s my idea of contemporary music theatre but the libretto is how people would talk,” Dow describes after delving into a brief history of verismo opera. “It’s very graphic in content and description and language, and they’re all singing, God bless Buddies.” The music is written for two pianos, though for Rhubarb they will be singing to tracks with the help of associate music director and conductor Mike Ross. Bruce says the experience of writing has been both vulnerable cathartic and has ultimately lead him to claim the title of composer with a sense of acceptance and joy. “Working through this libretto has been very personal. Even though I am not a trans woman, I know people who are,” Bruce says of creating the character of Ohio. “I will never know what the experience is like, but I’m coming to understand it more and empathize.” Bruce also found himself reflecting on his own coming out at the height of the AIDS crisis compared to the different, and yet similar, realities faced by young LGBTQ teens now.

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Photo Credit: Vince Ha

 

“The singers are incredible,” Bruce praises his cast. “Jordan Fantauzzo is a member of the Theatre 20 Emerging Artist Ensemble and he did his MFA at The Boston Conservatory. Jordan Bell has this kick ass voice, but I don’t think anyone quite knows how absolutely great of an actor he is. Brilliant.” The other three members of the cast, Cassie, Kayla and Danik are recent Randolph grads. Their characters’ presence in the show would expand as the show developed further and Dow describes them as “smart little actors” who are “fucking fierce.” Stage manager Katie Honek, who Bruce met while Honek was apprentice SM on Sextet at the Tarragon, is brilliant and completely on top of things. Associate Director and Dramaturge Isaac Robsinson is “a smart hothead who helps me make the libretto work.” Bruce laughs, “I’m having the time of my life working on this.” Bruce also credits Mel Hague for inspiring him as an artist to be brave and risk big.

As for Rhubarb, Bruce is thrilled to be a part of the festival. “Once you’re accepted you’re given carte blanche to go create. It’s really new work in the sense of the word. Raw, and not quite complete. I can’t wait to see what other people are doing.”

 

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A new opera about the romanticization of suffering and depression in LGBTQ youth. This workshop presentation will feature early explorations of the music and writing for the first act of the show.

When: February 11-14 at 9:00pm in the Chamber

Artists: composer / libretist Bruce Dow | performers Jordan Bell + Jordan Fantauzzo with Kayla Coolen, Cassie Doane + Danik McAfee | dramaturge / associate director Isaac Robinson | production stage manager Katie Honek

Tickets: included in your $20 Evening Pass

On Our Radar TO: Fall in Love with Toronto Theatre this Month

 

Whether it’s with your family, friends, lover, significant-other or you’re treatin’ yo self, we’ve listed our different date suggestions for these lusted-after February shows plus some February events we’re swooning over! These shows are On Our Radar, Toronto, and we think you should Fall in Love With Theatre all over again this February! 

Genesis & Other Stories

Written by Rosamund Small, presented by Aim for the Tangent Theatre

Genesis 2014 Promo Photo #1

Did the nudie promo pictures convince you yet? If you didn’t catch Genesis & Other Stories in their sold-out run in last summer’s Fringe Festival, lucky for you they have brought it back for a February re-mount in the Red Sandcastle Theatre after a revised run in the Hamilton Fringe. If you did catch it, you know you’ll want to see it again! Laugh-out-loud funny, thought-provoking and feel-good family fun… well… It’ll get you talking!

This is our On the Laugh-track to Love date recommendation.

Check out our interview we did with playwright Rosamund Small to find out more about the show. https://inthegreenroom.ca/2013/06/25/we-chat-with-rosamund-small-writer-of-genesis-other-stories/

“After his father’s death, Christopher, a theology student, leads a misfit cast of amateur actors in a production of his late father’s play: a hyper-sexed version of Adam and Eve set in 1960’s USA.  Slapstick, satire, and meta-theatre frame a surprisingly complex story about lonely people trying to fill roles that do not suit us. Christopher tries to convince everyone including himself that he is committed to his religion and its strict views on sexuality, and capable of directing and producing his father’s bizarre script. Despite everyone’s best intentions, a break up, forgotten lines, and a crisis of faith conspire to sabotage the production. The primary focus of Genesis is on laughter, but the show is only funny because of the pain and struggle of Chris and the other characters. A hilarious romp that is sure to get you thinking, whether you’re religious, theatrical, or somewhere in between.”

Genesis Promo Photo #2

“Comically disastrous… very funny. Things could only go worse if the theatre collapsed.” – Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine

Where: RED Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East)
When: February 5th-15th Wednesday-Friday 8pm, Saturdays 7pm & 9pm
Tickets: $15 at the Door, $10 in Advance at www.totix.ca or call (416) 845-9411
For more information, visit: www.aimforthetangent.com

Shrew

Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, presented by Red One Theatre Collective

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Killer cast, intriguing promotional poster, “puppetry & Vaudeville charm” set in the Klondike? After being big fans of After Miss Julie, we’re excited to see what Red One Theatre brings us next and Shrew seems to be just the ticket.

This is our Rowdy Buddies at the Shakespeare Show date recommendation.

“The beautiful and gentle Bianca has no shortage of admirers, but her mother insists that she will not marry until her older sister, Katharina, is betrothed. The only problem is that Katharina is the wildest, loudest, maddest shrew in the Klondike. It’s a low-down showdown with honky-tonk, puppetry, slapstick, and Vaudeville charm, and one of these gunslingers will either go broke or strike gold.

In his directorial debut, rising Stratford Festival star and RedOne Theatre veteran Tyrone Savage gathers together Toronto’s premier emerging talents for the first time in this one-of-a-kind production.”

Where: The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
When: February 15th – March 2nd, 2014 8pm (Sunday PWYC Matinees – 2pm)
Tickets: $19.99 Advance tickets available @ www.secureaseat.com

The Way Back to Thursday

Written by Rob Kempson, presented by Theatre Passe Muraille

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Call your Grandma, call your mother… Hell, call EVERYONE and take them to the theatre this month. Rob Kempson has written a charming, funny and moving musical about unconditional love that will have you beaming one minute and reaching for a box of tissues the next.

This is our Reconnecting With Family date recommendation.

“Inspired by the traditional song cycle form, The Way Back to Thursday is a musical about unconditional love that crosses generations, genders and lifetimes.

Cameron and his Grandmother have a special tradition – movie nights every Thursday.  Together they escape into the glamour and romance of the Golden Age of film.  But as Cameron grows, so does the distance between them.”

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Where: Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson)
When: Now to February 8th
Tickets: Pwyc-$32.50. 416-504-7529

The Ugly One

Written by Marius von Mayenburg, translated by Maja Zade. Co-production by Theatre Smash and Tarragon Theatre

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Sharp, odd, hilarious and the tightest staging, design and performances that we’ve seen in one show in a while – The Ugly One is a must-see before it closes mid-February. We can’t and we won’t stop chatting about it. Theatre Isn’t Dead said it perfectly: “Non-theatre folks will dig it too. I can almost promise that.” –Blog Theatre Isn’t Dead.

We deem this our Theatrical Rejuvenation date aka. Win-over-that-friend-who-is-too-cool-for-theatre-with-the-cool-theatre-show date recommendation.

“You can’t sell anything with that face.” A razor sharp satire about getting ahead in the world. With mesmerizing speed, this award-winning work by one of Germany’s hottest playwrights catapults us into a narcissistic world obsessed with beauty, image and plastic surgery.”

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Where: Tarragon Theatre Extra Space
When: Now until February 16th
Tickets: http://tarragontheatre.com/season/1314/the-ugly-one/

Of Mice and Morro and Jasp

Created and performed by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee, presented by U.N.I.T. Productions and Factory Theatre

OF MICE

U.N.I.T. Productions is excited to announce the remount of Of Mice and Morro and Jasp!

Morro and Jasp feel the pinch of the recent economic downturn and decide to try to make ends meet by staging John Steinbeck’s classic tale Of Mice and Men. Can the clown sisters stick to the story? Will they both make it out alive? This winter, find out for yourself!

This is our Friends Until The End date recommendation.

Where: Factory Studio Theatre
When: Jan 28 to Feb 8, Tue-Sat 8PM, Thur 1PM, Sat 2PM
Tickets: $25 Regular Price / $20 Student, Senior, Arts Worker PWYC Preview Jan 28 www.factorytheatre.ca 416-504-9971

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Read our latest interview with Co-creators & performers Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee here: https://inthegreenroom.ca/2014/01/29/of-mice-and-morro-and-jasp/

Idiot’s Delight

Written by Robert E. Sherwood, presented by Soulpepper Theatre

Courtney Ch'ng Lancaster, Hailey Gillis, Gregory Prest & Dan Chameroy. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Hailey Gillis, Gregory Prest & Dan Chameroy. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

With 1920’s flair, song, dance and love amongst wartime, this is our Indulging in Delights date recommendation.

“A cast of wonderfully eccentric and international guests – countesses, arms dealers, showgirls, revolutionaries, charlatans and lovers – spend a fateful weekend in a resort hotel in the Italian Alps. While songs are sung and dances danced and loves rekindled, the dark clouds of war come rolling in.”

Where: Young Centre for the Performing Arts
When: January 29th – March 1st
Tickets: http://soulpepper.ca/performances/14_season/Idiot’s_Delight.aspx

Read our latest Artist Profile with Paolo Santalucia & Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster “From Academy to Company in Soulpepper’s “Idiot’s Delight” here: https://inthegreenroom.ca/artist-profiles/

the dreamer examines his pillow

By John Patrick Shanley, presented by JR Theatre Company

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the dreamer examines his pillow is a surreal, intimate look at the beautiful and dark forces of love. The play explores the aftermath of love, whether it’s after an explosive affair between two lovers, or the dwindling, harsh lack of love from a widowed father to his daughter. Poetic, lyrical and rough – the dreamer examines his pillow is one of contemporary theatre’s finest looks at intimacy and need. It sounds to us like the perfect antithesis to Hallmark’s version of Valentine’s Day!

This is our Dark Surrealist Valentine’s Day date recommendation.

Where: The Box Toronto (89 Niagara Street)
When: February 7th-16th Fridays & Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 2pm
Tickets: dreamer.brownpapertickets.com 

LABOUR

Written by Eric Welch and Ryan Welch. Based on the original short story by Ryan Welch with further realization by The Coyote Collective Company, presented by Coyote Collective

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LABOUR looks at the Sisyphean life of factory day-workers, who see no choices but to go to work every day, and have resigned themselves to a life of the same. For these four characters, commodification has completely changed the way they think about life, love, and happiness.

This is our Socially Conscious date recommendation.

Where: Theatre Passe-Muraille Backspace
When: February 5th to the 9th. 5th-7th 7:30pm, 8th 2pm & 7:30pm, 9th 2pm
Tickets: $20, Student/Senior $15, PWYC: Saturday, February 8th 2:00pm, Opening and Media Night: Wednesday, February 5th
Tickets available for purchase at artsboxoffice.ca or at the door. 

Events We’re Crushin’ On:

The 35th Rhubarb Festival

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Buddies in Bad Times Theatre presents their 35th annual festival of new works in contemporary theatre, performance art, dance, and music. For two weeks artists transform the Buddies neighbourhood into a hotbed of experimentation, sharing new works in contemporary theatre, performance art, dance, and music with adventure-loving audiences.

New to the festival this year is a new series of Open Space Projects will animate unexpected spaces around the Buddies neighbourhood and make new artistic connections between five historic queer institutions here in Toronto.

When: February 12th-23rd
Where: Buddies in Bad Times Theatre & around the neighbourhood
Tickets: Open Space Projects & Artist Talks – Free
Young Creators Unit – PWYC
Week One Mainstage Projects – $10
Week Two Evening Passes – $20

Roar

Written & performed by Spencer Charles Smith, presented by Straight Camp

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“Roar – a solo play about beefy, burly, brawny love”

SYNOPSIS – A boy’s campy quest for furry love, Spencer will explore his unapologetic desire for ‘bearish’ men, critique the problematic spectrum of identities within the Bear community (Bear, Cub, Otter, Panda, Muscle-Bear, etc.) and hopefully deconstruct notions of hegemonic masculinity.

Above all, it’s a love letter.

This is a staged-reading of Spencer’s latest draft of Roar and he is eager to hear your feedback. A talk-back will follow the presentation. And drinks. Featuring a special pre-show presentation: “Kid: A Queer Fable”, written, illustrated and performed by Katie Sly

Where: Videofag (187 Augusta Ave)
When: Wednesday February 5th 8pm, Thursday February 6th 8pm
Tickets: PWYC (at the door)

Theatre on a Theme: Love

Conceived and Directed by Drew O’Hara, presented by Everybody to the Theatre Company

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“Six actors, 18 theatre pieces that vary in length from 10 minutes to 10 seconds. What do you get? A hilarious, heart-wrenching, fast-paced, occasionally musical, exciting night at the theatre. Following the success of Theatre on a Theme: FAILURE, the Everybody to the Theatre Company gang will bring you Theatre on a Theme: LOVE, just in time for Valentine’s Day.”

Where: Unit 102 Theatre (376 Dufferin Street)
When: Sunday February 23rd 2pm & 8pm
Tickets: http://www.eventbrite.ca/o/everybody-to-the-theatre-company-4737180757?s=20682528

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope”

Written by Ian Doescher, presented by Red One Theatre Collective and Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

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A one-night only staged reading of the classic sci-fi epic told in the Bard’s style.

“This sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The Saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.” This is the play you are looking for. Lightsaber fights included! Themed drinks/food/entertainment too – say whaaat!

Where: The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
When: February 7th Doors at 7pm, Show at 8pm
Tickets
: $10 in advance online www.secureaseat.com or $15 at the door. 

The Howland Company Reading Group – February:

February 9th Charles Mee’s “Big Love”, February 23rd Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem”

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“Bi-weekly, The Howland Company hosts an open event called The Reading Group, where artists are encouraged to gather, meet, reconnect and work with fellow members of the Toronto theatre community and ultimately read a play together.

The readings are a laid-back, social way to work with peers and continue to develop our craft. Scripts are provided and parts are assigned and exchanged on the fly. All are welcome to participate in reading or sit back and listen.”

Check out the history of The Reading Group, including all plays past and future, at: http://howlandcompanytheatre.com/the-reading-group/.

For event updates: https://www.facebook.com/TheHowlandCompanyTheatre

When: Sunday February 9th & Sunday February 23rd 7:30pm
Where: Location is posted on the Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/TheHowlandCompanyTheatre
Tickets: Free